In my previous two posts, I discussed the difference between reacting from your trauma symptoms and anchoring yourself in truth. Reacting can feel powerful as you let your feelings fly but accomplishes very little, while anchoring yourself in truth lets you speak words and set boundaries that you truly mean and are willing to maintain. Needless to say, there is a big difference between the two.
Unfortunately, finding and speaking your truth can be a very scary thing, because it requires vulnerability. When you have a big fight and yell and scream things at each other, not much in the relationship is really on the line. Yes, everyone is miserable, hurts are created, and damage is done. But nothing important is risked and not much changes, except the level of good will in the relationship continues to erode.
When you speak your truest truth, however, you can effect change. But in doing this you take a risk; you become vulnerable. When you share your heart and talk about what you really want and need, and what you will and won’t accept in your relationship moving forward, you bare a part of your soul. And nothing requires more vulnerability than that.
If you are used to the kind of conflict that many couples dealing with betrayal are used to, then this new way of communicating—honestly, thoughtfully, and from the heart—is very different. As such, it is a plea (perhaps even a demand) for change in every aspect of the relationship. It is like saying, “I want you to take me seriously and to respond to me differently. I want you to be accountable in the relationship for what has happened and to take responsibility for mending it. I will be asking for that from now on.”
This move to alter the dynamics of the relationship by asking your spouse to show up on his side differently can be scary. What if he ignores you? What if he doesn’t respond to your request? What if he refuses to go to couples therapy? What if he refuses to stop seeing his affair partner? What then?
When you deliberately become vulnerable by saying what you feel and asking for what you need, you are taking a much bigger risk than you take when you spin out of control and make threats. If your spouse ignores you during that type of conflict, you too can dismiss yourself by saying, “Well, that was just a big brouhaha that got out of hand, and I’m sure he didn’t even hear me with all that was said.” You can end up letting yourself and your partner off the hook. Nothing is risked. But nothing is gained, either.
To take the riskier route and really ask for change, knowing that your spouse could refuse? Well, that requires courage, vulnerability, and stick-to-it-ness. But it is also where things can change for the better in your relationship. When your spouse recognizes that this is not a request made in the heat of rage and anger, that instead it is a well-thought out statement, the conversation will generate a different kind of attention and response. Will it always be the response you want? No, of course not. But when you use your true, anchored, vulnerable, and therefore empowered voice, your chances of moving in the right direction increase exponentially.